Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ben Wright's Spinning Reel Report (Feb. 2013)



Reels of  "REEL" interest:
Abu-matic 80 CF nib @302.32
Rare Garcia Cardinal Ambassdeur 55 cut-a-way SS exc @ only 292.00

Record 600 like new with fitted case and extra spool @
Suveran S3000M exc+ w/gold box @ 482.98

Cedar Sea Martin exc- @ 1401.81

From Canada- a Tamco by La Salle SCF exc+ @ 155.50

Herters 73 By Dam Quick ewb @ 227.53

Bretton 400R nib @ 120.18
Centaure Pacific Green nib @ 175.50
Crack Contact 400 early White color paint wear @466.94

German Preciosa DMGA exc- @ 205.50

Great Lakes Whirlaway Imperial 85 exc- w/Box @ 300.00

Holliday 40 first version exc @ 255.00
Orvis 100SS nib @ 224.50

Sportsman Streamliner by Olympic nib @ 136.51
Tina Mite micron copy like new @ 174.44 may not have sold ??? may be relisted for March not sure ??

Pres 11 2860 nib @ 201.50

Zebco:  seems that someone was selling his collection of some of the rare CF check out some of these prices paid !!
Zero Hour Bomb Co-------
With Tan spinner head ewb @ 61.00
With Red spinner head ewb @ 76.99
With Black spinner head exc @ 242.50

another Black spinner head e+wb @ 305.00
a model 202 black w/red handle and push button nib @ 202.50

More Reels:
Garcia Gold Max 507 Mk 2 scf nib @ 142.00
333 3rd version exc @ 142.50
cardinal 44X dark brown re-paint @ 227.11
753 ewb @ 54.50
754 nib @ 68.00
754 exc @ 67.00

Mastereel #3 exc- w/box,bag, extra spool @ 37.00
spinster second version ewb @ 47.99
spinster mk V1 exc- @ 51.00

500C exc-w/rod @ 88.88

Hardy Altex no 3 exc- @ 300.00

Caribe black modified w/MPU @ 92.05

Alcedo Micron curved leg e-wb @ 150.00
BOX ONLY for a Micron exc+ @ 47.85

Topper nib @ 42.00

308 nib @ 76.00
308 Pro ewb @ 172.39
324 ARCA exc @ only 47.42
510 exc @ 130.00
498X exc @ 153.00

716 e-wb @ 177.50
720 first version nib @ 125.00

2052 w/newer medallion ??? @ 103.50
2401 marron exc @ 65.00
2080 ewb @ 55.00

44 CF e+wb @ 41.00
888 great white cf USA nib @ 77.00
Carinal 4 3rd version nib @ 231.36

A few more reels:
Harrison auto-max 100 MISSING HANDLE @ 99.00
swiss record 400 special ewb @ 90.00
T/T uni-spin 63 SL like new @ 152.50
wordens belt reel exc w/belt @ 150.00

A few reel deals:
Heddon 282 nib @ 22.50
Zebco Omega 940 XL ewb @ 10.49
English Loncast two sold both exc- @ 33.56 & 42.76
Dragonfly nib @ 47.78
South Bend 606G nib @ 16.62
and the buy of the month was an Alcedo Mark 1V Black
exc w/ a stiff bail @ ONLY 152.50

Spring is on the way !!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snarls & Backlashes with Finn Featherfurd: The Long & Twisted History of the Outer's Family of Magazines

In 1901, Milwaukee's Dan Starkey (1862-1949) founded the Northwestern Sportsman Publishing Company and launched a new outdoor magazine called The Northwestern Sportsman. A former newspaper editor, Starkey was particularly attracted to the outdoors, so he launched a magazine focused solely on fishing and hunting in the upper Midwest -- which at the time was still called the Northwest. It included the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Northern Ohio all the way over to Colorado and Montana.

In a major coup, the magazine lined up one of the most important angling voices as the day as its fishing editor -- James Heddon of Dowagiac, Michigan, one of the leaders in the bait casting revolution and maker of some of the finest fishing tackle of all time. Heddon wrote a monthly column on bait casting and other notations on fishing in the region. He covered tournament casting in detail during a very important time in tournament casting history.

Alas, The Northwestern Sportsman was not very successful, and lasted only from 1901to 1907. That year, the magazine was rebranded and renamed Outer's Book. It took on a national focus and immediately grew in popularity, becoming one of the top five or six sporting magazines in America. It attracted a lot of quality writers including O.W. Smith, Samuel G. Camp, Charles Frederick Holder, Robert Page Lincoln, and Sheridan R. Jones.

The most famous contribution by Outer's Book to American culture came in February 1910, when it published the first popularized version of the Paul Bunyan myth -- a myth that was soon expanded upon to take its place among American legend and lore.

The newly renamed magazine carried the name Outer's Book from 1907 to 1917, when the publication incorporated the old and established magazine Recreation, which was founded back in 1883. To reflect this change, it was rebranded in 1917 as Outers' Book Recreation, which remained its name until 1919. It changed its format from a compact 8" x 10" to an oversized 9" x 12" and became very slick in look. Easy to overlook is the moving of the apostrophe to after the "S" in Outer's.

The problem was that Outers' Book Recreation is an awkward name, so in 1919 it was rebranded for a fourth time. From 1919 to 1924 it was called simply Outers' Recreation. The slogan for the magazine was now "The Magazine that Brings the Outdoors In" and they continued with its oversized formatting. It was in this period that the magazine became known for its gorgeous covers.

IBut the tinkering was not done. In 1924, the magazine was renamed for a fourth time, this time taking the title Outdoor Recreation. Very little changed from the previous incarnation except the name, and it still had amazing covers and high quality writing.

The end for this magazine with the convoluted history came in 1927, when it merged with the established magazine Outdoor Life. Interestingly, the new Outdoor Life prominently carried the masthead "Outdoor Life which is Combined with Outdoor Recreation" for the first year or so. This notation became smaller over time until 1931, when the subtitle was so small on the cover as to be almost meaningless. The January 1932 Outdoor Life cover is the first that did not carry the "Outdoor Life which is Combined with Outdoor Recreation" tag, although the magazine continued referring to it until 1936. Also of interest is that it appears that Outdoor Life adopted far more of Outdoor Recreation's style than vice versa. It was only after the merger that Outdoor Life began to distinguish itself from its major competitor, Field & Stream.

Regardless of its name, the Outer's Family of magazines were high quality publications -- especially during the years when Sheridan R. Jones was editor. NFLCC member Joseph R. Hilko has written a charming biography of Jones which has a lot of information on Outer's Recreation and Outer's Book in it. It's one of the best biographies of an outdoor writer I know of.

I have always found this family of magazines to have some of the best articles on tackle history and some of the best ads around. Early copies of this magazine are very, very rare and very difficult to locate.

What follows is a synopsis of the various name changes of this fascinating publication.


OUTER'S BOOK: 1907 - 1917





-- Finn

Finn Featherfurd is the pseudonym of a sad and lonely retired professor and newspaper columnist who has spent the better part of the past four decades (unsuccessfully) chasing fish in the Lower 48. A long-time collector of vintage fishing tackle of all kinds, he is currently fascinated by pre-1920 children's fishing reels (40 yards and smaller). When the spirit moves him, he will contribute occasional pieces and essays to the Fishing for History Blog. He can be reached at

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Voices from the Past: South Bend's Customer Service (1921)

The following article appeared in the trade journal The Printer's Ink for October 1921. It covers in enormous detail the customer service department for South Bend Bait Co. of South Bend, Indiana. If you ever wondered why the firm grew so large so quickly, look no further than the manner in which they tailored letters to their prospective customers. Ivar Hennings, South Bend president, had it down to an art form, with different letters for different writers. Note that they, like all makers, asked each writer to notate what magazine they saw the ad in (Dept. G for example, designating Field & Stream) so they could tailor their response accordingly.  History proves this was an enormously successful business practice, and helps explains why companies like South Bend and Shakespeare had so many different tackle flyers.

A mint collection of 1921 South Bend catalogs and flyers that would have been mailed out to responders. (Courtesy of Lang's Auctions).

How to Make Follow-Up Letters Fit the Prospect

South Bend Bait Company Grades Them According to Mediums That Bring in the Inquiries

By C. M. Harrison

DOES an inquiry received through a general magazine advertisement require a different treatment from one gained from a similar advertisement in a class magazine? Or, to put it another way, should a prospect be automatically classified on a mailing list on the basis of the medium which brought in the name?

The South Bend Bait Company, of South Bend, Ind., after much experimentation in letter writing, is prepared to answer "Yes" to each of these questions. It manufactures bait and fishing tackle and advertises its goods in various classes of mediums. It believes that it is just as important to make the follow-up letter fit the prospect as it is to devote the same attention to the matter of individual copy. The letter, therefore, is made to conform as closely as possible to the general tone of the advertisement which produced the inquiry.

When an inquiry is received at the South Bend office it is at once classified by a key number which indicates the particular advertisement and publication that brought it about. Then the reply is sent out on a specially printed letterhead, on the back of which is reproduced the advertisement that caused the prospect to write.

New supplies of the stationery are printed each month so that the advertisements on the back shall always be up to date. The idea behind the procedure is that the prospect will be doubly impressed if he can see on the letter the advertisement which first induced him to write for the catalogue.

When a man writes the company in reply to an advertisement coming from a certain list of general or national publications, the South Bend theory is that he does not take an outdoor magazine and therefore he probably is not a dyed-in-the-wool angler. The letter written him therefore reads like this:

"1921 Fishing Season.

Dear Fellow Sportsman:

You will be interested, we feel certain, in the true-to-life boyhood fishing tale related in the first pages of this book.

As a sportsman—you are no doubt active in several sports which keenly delight you, which take you out in the open, close to nature.

But are you an angler? Do you know the thrill—the excitement—the genuine joy of baitcasting—the sport of casting for game fish? If you do we need not urge you further to carefully read through this book.

If you have never experienced the thrill which a fighting black bass will give you, turn to pages 6 and 7—also pages 16 and 17— of this book. We'll wager that you'll then read it entirely from cover to cover.

Tackle shown in this book is handled by the live sporting goods dealers in jour city. Go to them— ask to see the new South Bend Level-Winding Anti - Back-Lash Reel, which makes every cast a perfect cast. Also—inspect other articles of Quality Tackle. Thenclosed flier on Selected Game fish Lures may further help you If your dealer cannot supply you. we will gladly fill any order direct. Please mention your dealer's name when writing.

Many thanks for your inquiry —hope that we can count on you as another South Bend Tackle booster.

Faithfully yours,

But the man whose request for a catalogue is inspired by an advertisement in a sportsmen's magazine gets a letter like this:

1921 Fishing Season.

Dear Fellow Angler:

The first few pages of 'The Days of Real Sport' will take you back to those good old days when 'goin' fishin" required little preparation outside of a 'can o' worms' and a cane pole.

Nowadays it is different, as you well know. These days are 'the days of reel sport'—the days of game-fishing sport with the proper tackle.

To simply leaf the pages of this book will at once impress you with the extensive variety of South Bend Quality Tackle.

More careful study of this book, along with the enclosed bait folder, will prove of great assistance in selecting the right baits for the species of fish you are going after.

In making selections, of course, we prefer that you patronize your home dealer. Quality Tackle is handled by the live sporting goods dealers in your city. However, if you prefer we will be glad to fill any order direct. Please mention your dealer's name when writing us.

Many thanks for your inquiry —will count on you as another South Bend Tackle booster.

Faithfully yours,

P. S.—Read carefully the green and black folder enclosed, telling about the 'Masterpiece of Casting Reels'—the new South Bend LevelWinding Anti-Back-Lash Reel.


The advertisement which brought the inquiry answered by the first letter tells about the joys of angling and as such is calculated to impress the person who may not be proficient in that kingly sport. The second class of inquiry, however, was produced by a presentation of "Lures They Fight For I" In each case the letter calls the prospect's attention to the advertisement on the back.

All inquiries brought in from boys' magazines are answered by a special letter which is changed each month to correspond in spirit and in fact with the advertisement printed on the back. It reads like this:

1921 Fishing Season.

Dear Friend:

Instead of sittin' still waiting for 'em to bite—instead of being contented with 'nibbles' and a string of little five-inch 'punkin seeds' or blue gills—the boy of today is getting the thrill and excitement of going after the 'big ones.'

It used to be that casting with reel and rod was the sport of onlydad and the older fellows. Nowadays it's the sport of real, redblooded, regular boys.

When you've read the story about the boy and his dad, on the first few pages of this book— turn to pages 6 and 7 and learn why angling is a hobby which every boy and man should have.

Then turn to pages 16 and 17 —learn about the art of casting. Then read on page 19 about the South Bend Anti-Back-Lash Reel —the reel which makes every cast a perfect cast.

You can learn a mighty lot about bait-casting for game fish by studying this book—and it's sure real sport that a real boy should have.

Ask the sporting goods dealer in your town .to show you the South Bend Reels and Tackle you see Here pictured. Show this book to your dad—ask him how you can earn money to get an angling outfit. Then go out and enjoy the sport of all sports—bait-casting for game fish. Make it your hobby now—and it'll be your hobby always.

Here's luck to you—we'll be glad to hear of your catches.

Faithfully yours.

The letters are varied in accordance with the subject advertised. The advertising department does this on the basis that an interesting letter is just as important in making a sale as is an interesting presentation in paid space, and that it is a costly mistake to devote much effort and expense to good copy and illustrations and then have the effect minimized by faulty form letters.

All of which is saying nothing against form letters. The South Bend letters are exactly that kind. But they are constantly changed to keep them absolutely in step with the advertising.

When a magazine advertisement tells about bait that can lure to his doom the mighty muskallunge, the resulting inquiries are answered by what is known as a "muskie letter." This gives an up-to-date message about the joys of muskie fishing and refers to certain pages in the catalogue where that grade of bait is listed.

In some of the February magazines the South Bend copy told about its four types of flies especially suitable for trout fishing. The inquirers got this trout letter:

1921 Fishing Season.

Dear Fellow Angler:

A noted English angler very fittingly describes the appetite of the wily trout as being 'a bit particular and most discriminating.' As an enthusiastic trout angler you will no doubt agree with him.

Fly-rod fishing for trout requires, first of all, skill—but of equal importance is the selection of the proper light lures to appeal to the trout's fastidious taste.

The Fuzz-Oreno (formerly Fuzzy-body) Buck-tail Flips have proven mighty killing. Also the new Fly-Oreno and Trout-Oreno baits are wonderfully effective lures. They are designed for flyrod use, are of the wobbler type, and dive, dash and wiggle the same as the famous Bass-Oreno.

Other lures, to which we wish to call your attention, are the well-known Emerson Hough Buck-tail Flies and the Pacific Coast Bucktail Fly. They will be found unusual killers and very enticing lures for fly-fishing.

Tackle shown in this book is handled by the live sporting goods dealers in your city. Patronize them. However, if they cannot supply you, we will gladly fill any order direct. Please mention your dealer's name in writing us.

Many thanks for your inquiry. Will count on you as another 'South Bend Tackle' booster.

Faithfully yours,

There is a "salt water letter" sent to those answering advertisements relative to salt water fishing. Christmas advertisements feature the use of reels and lures for gifts and invite inquirers to send for "The Days of Real Sport" in order that full information regarding such useful and welcome gifts may be had. A special Christmas letter goes to all inquirers. It is written so as to bring out the Christmas spirit and on the back of it is the advertisement which inspired the request.

The company regards a form letter as just that and nothing else. Consequently all the letters are printed in ordinary type. There is not the slightest attempt made to make them look like typewritten messages.


But the personal touch which is of the greatest use in all business-getting letters is there just the same. It is in the letter's wording and in its general atmosphere rather than the physical form of its presentation.

Some of the coldest, dreariest, driest, most stereotyped letters in the world are sent out in proper typewritten form with the addresses matching up nicely and the signature correctly appended.

There is no occasion or inclination here to discuss the relative pulling power of typed letters as against the printed kind. But it certainly is not amiss to suggest that the personality, the selling force, must be in the wordinq of the letter.

"We believe," Ivar Hennings. president and general manager of the company, said to Printers' Ink, "that the letter is one of the most sadly neglected phases of advertising. When a person answers one of our advertisements we have in him a potential customer who may have a realiy great effect upon our business in years to come. We either must see him personally and thus clinch the good effect of the work the advertising has done or we must attempt the thing by mail. Obviously the mail is what we use.

"Therefore we cannot take any chances. Each and every letter must be highly personalized— something which is absolutely practical and possible even though letters be of the form variety. If a form letter is highly personalized after this manner it does as much good as a letter dictated to a prospect personally and signed by me as president of the company."

The South Bend company regards its mail so great an asset that it makes full use of the enclosure idea. Little pamphlets go out with every letter and with every box of goods.

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, February 25, 2013

The News of the Week: Feb. 25, 2013

Don't have time to read 50+ fishing and tackle collecting blogs and web sites? Well, let us do it for you! Follow all of the latest news, articles, and stories on our Whitefishpress Twitter account! Hint: You don't need to be a member...just bookmark the Twitter Feed Page or click on latest links to the right!
THE MONDAY 10: The Ten Fishing Stories of the Week You Need to Know
The Big Lead: The great John Merwin has passed.

Run for your lives! Giant goldfish invading Lake Tahoe.

Acting on a hunch, two fishermen save the lives of two girls who survived a grisly car crash.

Cliff Pace is your 2013 Bassmaster Classic winner.

Shimano had a great fourth quarter of 2012.

Eisenhower and Nixon fishing. That is all.

Pulaski man lands massive pike through the ice.

Smithsonian opines on fishing pseudonyms.

A huge musky from Michigan has folks checking the record books.

Finishing with a Flourish: Woman auctions off ex-boyfriends secret fishing spot.

-- Dr. Todd

Sunday, February 24, 2013

1000 Words

Rarely do we get to know the photographer of the many wonderful images that adorn the 1000 Words feature. Today is not one of those days. This photo dated 1941 comes from the great Charles K. Fox, who took this 4 1/2 pound brown trout on a Marabou streamer just a few miles from the Pennsylvania state capitol. Fox was an incredible writer and as you can see, a talented photographer.

-- Dr. Todd

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett: Jacob Mick -- Mystery

Jacob Mick – Mystery
The ad presented here is from the June 1905 issue of National Sportsman. I wish I could present some definite conclusions based on what we know about this ad, but the fact remains that after several years of effort I can only present the evidence, give my own thoughts and let someone else out there take from here. There are at least three Jacob Mick advertisements that show up in National Sportsman in early 1905. I have chosen this one because it illustrates both his baits.

If anyone were to show the illustration of the top bait in this ad to a knowledgeable collector of early baits, most of the time the name “Harkauf” would come up. The shape of the bait itself along with that of the metal fins and the hooks hung by split rings on staples in the wood, are all the same features seen on the “Harkauf Plug”. There is an illustration of this bait in an early Harkauf catalog as well as on a few Harkauf boxes with illustrated labels. The illustrations used in these Harkauf sources are not just a similar illustrations to those used in Jacob Mick's ads, they are the same exact cut ! I will say that I never had reason in the past to doubt that Harkauf actually sold the bait, but it's construction seemed to have nothing in common with the well known Harkauf minnows that were produced by the company.

This early Harkauf Plug box uses the same engraved cut on the label as is found in the 1905 Jacob Mick advertisement. It is presented here courtesy of long-time NFLCC member Rick Edmisten

As to the second bait in the ad, it is an accurate picture of what is usually referred to as a “Decker Underwater Minnow”. When I first noticed this, I asked several knowledgeable collectors if they had ever seen this bait with the name “DECKER” on the spinners or on the body. No one said they had. One long-time collector told me that it had been assumed early in the hobby that this was a Decker as it was found laying in an open Decker box when folks went through the estate of a deceased NFLCC member. After this assumption was published in an early edition of Carl Luckey's Early Fishing Lures and Their Makers it seems to have been taken as gospel. Like the Floating bait, it has its hooks hung by split rings on staples. I do not know of a box that has this bait shown on the label.

his is the bait that is often called a “Decker Underwater Minnow” despite the fact that none have been seen marked as such. It is identical to the bait illustrated in the 1905 Jacob Mick advertisement and is staple rigged with split rings just as the Jacob Mick Top Water Bait. This picture is presented here courtesy of long-time NFLCC member Warren Platt.

Decker collectors do not graciously accept that this second bait may not have been made by Mr Decker. I would only say that if Mr Mick made both baits and sold the surface bait through Harkauf, but not his underwater, that would explain why the surface bait is fairly common and the underwater is very scarce. For those who would argue that Mr Decker made the underwater that Mr Mick was selling, I would ask why Mr Mick would only offer the poorly selling underwater and not Mr Deckers popular surface bait. To me a better explanation is that Mr Mick made both baits and Harkauf sold Mr Mick's surface bait to compete with the popular Decker, while declining to sell the fairly crude underwater, as the company already had a line of high quality underwater minnows.

The fact that Harkauf was not the only outlet for Jacob Mick's surface bait is suggested by the box shown here courtesy of Joe Stagnetti. It is an original Jacob Mick box that was found over labeled with a label for the “Manhattan” top water bait.

This original Jacob Mick box was found over labeled with a “Mahattan Top Water” label. It is presented here courtesy of well known collector, Joe Stagnetti.

I'm hoping that sometime in the future more evidence will surface to clarify this picture. In the mean time I have a short story concerning the “Harkauf Plug”. Some years ago I bought a well used one in the smallest size at the Milwaukee show for $15. It was complete with original hooks but missing some of its paint. It had the look of an old bait that would catch fish. The following Spring my long-time fishing apprentice Warren Platt was visiting and I pointed to the bait that was hanging on the wall and asked how he would like to be the first to try out this 100 year old bait. He jumped at the chance and quickly caught and released 4 bass (all that tutoring is starting to pay off folks). He then turned to me in the other end of the boat with a puzzled look and said “something is wrong”. He showed me that the bait was sinking slowly rather than floating. After 100 years that wood was so dry that it sucked in enough water in 40 minutes to become waterlogged! After drying out for the rest of the season, I waterproofed it with some polyurethane and today it floats just fine and is still taking fish over 100 years after it was made.

Tight Lines,

Wild Bill Sonnett

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Friday Funhouse

The Video of the Week

This bird is a better angler than you; uses bread as bait.

12 Things I Would Buy If Only i Could Afford Them

This Darby Weedless is superb.

A Shakespeare Style B is a nice find.

This 1909 Outdoor Life magazine is very rare.

An Ashaway Zane Grey line spool in the box will bring a whole lot of action.

This Winchester duo is a nice find.

Holy nice Bronson Invaders, batman!

You never see these True Value lure boxes for sale.

This set of three ABU Zebco Cardinals is getting some amazing action.

The first issue of Bassmaster Magazine is a wonderful find.

It's magazine week here in the Friday Funhouse, and this 1896 Sports Afield is incredible.

This is a pretty amazing dealer display of Shurkatch Baits.

A Meek & Milam #2 is really great.

As always, have a great weekend, and be nice to each other, and yourself!

-- Dr. Todd

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday Review: Bernard Defrance and Philippe Bridou's Warner and Sons Wyers Frere (2013)

Thursday Review: Bernard Defrance and Philippe Bridou's Warner and Sons Wyers Frere (2013)
A few days ago the international mail delivered a hugely welcome treat -- the new hardcover book on Warner and Sons and Wyers Frere. For those who don't know, the Warners, English brothers from Redditch, England, created the legendary Parisian store Wyers Frere as an outlet for their goods on the Continent, and in so doing created some of the neatest and most collectable piscatoria in the world.

The books is basically a catalogue of Bernard Defrance's extensive collection. Usually such books end up lacking, as few collectors truly have an exhaustive enough accumulation to fully flesh out a book. However, in this case it was warranted (several pages of another collection are in fact used to flesh out a section).

While the history is not exhaustive it does cover the subject well, but mostly this is a photo record of Warner and Sons fishing tackle -- not all of it manufactured by them. They sold a number of items from other makers through Wyers Frere in Paris (there are some Montague and Pflueger trade reels with the Wyers Frere marking).

And what a place it was! It had all the elegance one would expect from a fin de siecle shop that catered to Parisian wealth and aristocracy. The historic photos are excellent and make one wish to travel in a time machine to visit this most historic shrines to angling.

The book has only a few drawbacks, and many benefits. First, I would have liked to have seen a more extensive rod section, but European rod makers and resellers usually get shorted in such works, so that wasn't a shock. I would also liked to have seen an appendix or two of catalog and other Warner and Son/Wyers ephemera. I think another 30 pages or so of source material would have rounded the book out nicely.

The book itself has an interesting layout -- the first time I leafed through it I thought it was a bit on the "heavy" side, with little room for the photos to breathe, but when I started reading it, the photo-heavy style grew on me. The photographs are mostly exceptional in the Chris Sandford style, and cover nearly all aspects of Warner and Sons tackle.

Overall, this is an excellent addition to any angler's library. It's written in both English and French and was printed in Belgium, with an introduction by noted entomologist and fly angler Charles Gaidy. A casebound hardcover (no dust jacket), it is 166 pages of full color. The only catch is getting a copy -- I purchased my copy from the author for approximately $140.00 on eBay before it went to print, and I am assuming by the fact it is not up there anymore they may have sold out their Limited Edition run. I do not know if they will come out with a trade edition, The seller's name was chatblanc0 and if I'm you want a copy, I'd contact him immediately!

-- Dr. Todd

The author Bernard Defrance emailed me and notes that there are still copies available. They are 110 Euros (including shipping) and you can contact him directly at -- it is definitely worth owning!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Harry English, Billiards, and Tournament Casting

Tournament casters are an interesting lot. For most of fishing history, they were among the best known of the American angling fraternity, but in the past thirty years the trend has been to lionize the professional bass fishermen, and to a lesser extent, professional anglers in other fields. It's gotten so bad that even people who profess to have knowledge of our sport are badly ignorant on the notion of tournament casting history and its participants.

That most major tackle makers were tournament casters is not a revelation. Bill Jamison, Fred Arbogast, Al Foss, Hiram Leonard, et al. competed in local, state, and national contests. Men like James Heddon and William Talbot actively supported the sport (Heddon even wrote a monthly column for several years on the subject). But the vast majority of competitors, especially the ones who didn't find success in the tackle field, have been forgotten. I'm going to start profiling a few of these gentlemen.

Today's biography is of a long-time Chicago tournament caster by the name of Harry English. English was a member of the Illinois Bait Casting Club, which numbered several dozen members, the most famous of which was William Stanley, a national champion caster and tackle maker of renown. One of their members, H.E. Rice, was the first treasurer of the National Association of Scientific Angling Clubs (NASAC). When the International Fly-Casting Tournament came to Chicago in 1908, English dutifully served on the Entertainment Committee (he was a good tournament caster but not of national reputation). Two years before he had traveled with his friend Charles Antoine, of Von Lengerke & Antoine fame, to Kalamazoo, Michigan to witness the famous casting tournament of 1906.

One of the reasons I like Harry English is that he was not a famous tackle maker. Instead, he was the enormously popular manager of the Reynolds Club at the University of Chicago -- a sort of predecessor to the Student Union idea of the 1930s and beyond. Born on Sep. 7, 1865 in Brooklyn, New York, after numerous odd jobs he gravitated towards club management. According to a 1922 edition of The University of Chicago magazine, on September 29th, 1904, he was appointed manager of the Reynolds Club, about ten months after it was opened. He had previously been in charge of the billiard room (more on that later), and became its first General Manager. English carefully stewarded the Reynolds Club (which required membership) from 300 to over 1,500 members in a short time.

Harry English ca. 1922

But Harry English was an angler at heart. Even his beloved U of C acknowledged his true passion. "Harry English, of course, possesses a hobby -- fishing. If he could only collect, at one time, all the big ones that 'got away,' the English Fisheries, Incorporated, would be the world's largest firm--maybe. When he retires he expects to do considerable fishing on his Indiana farm."

One of the reasons Harry English is of interest to me is that my job at the University of Minnesota was student manager of the Coffman Memorial Union Recreation Center -- so, like Harry English, I ran the billiards room. One day I will write a book about my experiences there, as I spent an inordinate amount of time shooting pool and meeting interesting people, but one thing I well remember is the general manager of the Rec Center was a grizzled old veteran named Harvey Patzwald. Harvey was in his 70s when I started and a fascinating, if brusque, guy who I got along with splendidly. He reminds me very much of Harry English.

I became a keen student of billiards history as an undergraduate, and read as much about the history of the sport as I could. I learned early on that the famous University of Chicago physicist Albert Michelson -- the first American to win a Nobel Prize in physics in 1907 -- was a dedicated billiards player. As an aside, billiards differs in many ways from pool, as it is played on a larger table that has no pockets with three larger balls. The object is to shoot so that you hit both of the other balls in the same shot, and keep shooting until you miss. It's all about caroms and bank shots and angles. When I ran the Coffman pool room, which in the 1980s had three of the only remaining full-size billiards tables in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the game was popular with Vietnamese gang members who called it Three Ball and wagered huge sums of money on it. I played it often but was never as good at is I would have liked to have been, and not as good at it as I was at nine-ball and eight-ball (which at the time I thought I was better at than I actually was).

Michelson was a brilliant billiards player, just a shade under the quality of the truly great players like Willie Hoppe. He was an intimate friend of Harry English and spent many, many hours shooting billiards in the Reynold's Club pool room. English was, in fact, the confidant of many illustrious figures in University history. The University of Chicago Magazine profile noted, "[University] President Harper…would frequently visit him, and sitting up late at nights in the billiard room, ask all kinds of questions about the Club's affairs and progress."

Michelson poses for a photo in the billiards room of the Reynolds Club.

I don't know if the subject matter of fishing came up, but I do know that Harry English tangentially influenced a very, very important piece of American fly fishing history. In 1928, a young Montana fly fisher came to the University of Chicago as a graduate assistant in English by the name of Norman Maclean. Of course, many decades later Maclean would become famous for his love letter to his Montana youth, A River Runs Through It, but at the time he was a young instructor with lots of time on his hands. He soon made his way to Harry English's Reynolds Club billiards room, which left a lasting impression on him. It is dead certain that he met Harry English (who was famous for greeting the students who frequented his club), and it would have been shocking if there shared love of fly fishing did not come up on a regular basis.

For his part, Maclean would later recount his Reynolds Club billiards days and how he had come to know Dr. Michelson in a wonderful piece written in his inimitable style.

He describes watching the 75 year old Michelson (Harry English would have been 63 when Maclean arrived) shoot billiards, although only "once did he hand me his cue and ask me to shoot, so once must have satisfied him that, although I wasn't good enough to play with him, he could turn to me now and then and lift an eyebrow."

Maclean recalled one time watching Michelson miss a shot, put down his cue, and calculate in his mind the string of successful shots that led up to it until he found where things had started to go wrong. Once he did, Maclean wrote,

He was through for the day. He locked his cue into the rack on the wall, and said, either to me or himself or the wall, “Billiards is a good game.”

He made sure that his tie was in the center of his stiff collar before he added, “But billiards is not as good a game as painting.”

He rolled down his sleeves and put on his coat. Elegant as he was, he was a workman and took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves when he played billiards. As he stood on the first step between the billiard room and the card room, he added, “But painting is not as good a game as music.”

On the next and top step, he concluded, “But then music is not as good a game as physics.”

A beautiful thought, but I'm sure if Harry English had overheard, he would have added, "But then physics is not as good a game as fishing."

The beauty of it is that Norman Maclean lived long enough to realize the wisdom in that final thought. And to that, he owes some small bit of credit to Harry English, the manager of the Reynolds Club and a tournament caster worth remember.

-- Dr. Todd

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Voices from the Past: James Heddon (1906)

This article was written by none other than James Heddon and appeared in the June 1906 edition of The Northwestern Sportsman. It's an interesting story, but more than that, it gives us insight into Heddon's manufacturing. In 1906, James Heddon was engaging in the purchase of cardboard boxes for his lures from the Barger Box Company of Elkhart, Indiana. Interestingly, Barger is still in business today--and likely provided boxes for Heddon for many years beyond this.


Over in Elkhart, Ind., which is only about twenty-five miles from the home of the writer, Dowagiac, Mich., there is a business man by the name of Barger. Mr. Barger is engaged in paper box manufacturing, and makes good boxes, as we know, being one of his customers. But besides this, Mr. Barger is a genial gentleman and, more than all, an enthusiastic angler. There is only one blemish on Barger's sporting character. Up to the time of the occurrence I am about to relate, Barger thought he had to go a-hunting in order to go a-fishing. Nothing would catch bass like frogs. Now, Mr. Barger used to go over to a huge mill pond, four miles from here, that was at that time well stocked with bass. That was about three years ago. A lady who keeps a· boat livery and boards anglers, has her boat landing in a little bay of rather shallow water, and just up to the mouth of this bay a big four pound bass had his lair.

Barger fed this bass frogs all that summer. Every time he would pass by he would cast out two or three frogs which the lusty bass would adroitly remove from his hooks and gulp down to his evident satisfaction, and to an equal amount of annoyance to Barger, but he was getting fat, and sooner or later he would get hooked, Barger thought. But along in the latter part of summer the writer and another party went up and procured one of "Aunt Carrie's" boats and· started out of the bay casting an artificial bait, and this proved too many for Mr. Baas. He bit at it at once and the next morning on the table nicely fried. Incidently we spoke to the landlady about where we captured him, and she threw up both hands with a frightened look upon her face and said, "Oh! You caught Mr. Barger's bass. He fed him frogs ever since last spring. He will be much put out when he finds that bass is gone." Of course, we didn't do it a-purpose. If the landlady told us about the lair, the bass and Mr. Barger's kindness in feeding him frogs all summer, to be sure we wouldn't have cast that far better lure over in the direction we did. But we understand that our Mr. Barger has progressed and reformed, that he learned that there are better lures than frogs or live minnows, and he doesn't spend a large portion of his time hunting frogs before he is to fish for any more.

-- Dr. Todd

Monday, February 18, 2013

The News of the Week: Feb. 18, 2013

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THE MONDAY 10: The Ten Fishing Stories of the Week You Need to Know
The Big Lead: Why the Bassmaster Classic is putting Oklahoma in the center of the fishing world.

Is this the most important piece of tackle in your kit?

Building the ultimate tackle box.

Singapore anglers are hooked on offshore fishing.

A Maumee tackle shop is luring anglers.

Why master anglers deserve the "Pure Michigan" treatment.

A 90 year old can still out fish you.

South Florida flyfishing guide Jack Allen is the "King of Pops."

Grandfather-granddaughter fishing team sets records.

Finishing with a Flourish: Why the proposed bill banning soft baits would set a bad precedent.

-- Dr. Todd